BY TOM LAVIS
Elaborate productions, Broadway, music, comedy, theater and dance are the building blocks of the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center’s 2013-14 season.
Michael Bodolosky, arts center executive director, is excited about the stellar lineup he has orchestrated for the upcoming season.
“I believe we have acquired a lot of diverse, high-quality talent that will feature something for everyone,” Bodolosky said. “We realize that in this economy, there is not a lot of disposable income. But with the generous support of corporations and sponsors, we have been able to offer Broadway-equivalent shows at affordable prices.”
All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Richland Township venue, on the campus of Pitt-Johnstown, except for performances in December and March by River City Brass Band, which begin at 3 p.m.
Bodolosky said that, when building a season of varied performances, his mission is to offer the best shows at a reasonable price.
“The Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center is a place where the arts come alive,” he said. “We have kept our pricing about the same and, in some cases, even less expensive than in previous years.”
Leading off the season on Sept. 7 will be the music of The New Christy Minstrels, under the direction of founding member Randy Sparks.
In 1961, Sparks and the group became a major influence on folk music. The group has recorded more than 20 albums, producing hits like “Green, Green,” “Saturday Night,” “Today,” and “Denver.” In 2010, Sparks re-created the Minstrels, and the group has been touring the nation since.
“The New Christy Minstrels have proven that great music stands the test of time,” Bodolosky said.
“Rocky Mountain High” hits the stage Oct. 12 as Ted Vigil celebrates the music of John Denver.
“Ted Vigil is not an impersonator,” Bodolosky said. “His tribute to John Denver is warm and sincere.”
Vigil is accompanied by longtime Denver guitar player Steve Weisberg, and together they pay homage to a musical legend.
On Nov. 14, “Ring of Fire” will touch on the life and times of one of the world’s most legendary musical artists, Johnny Cash.
“Ring of Fire” features more than 35 of Cash’s hits from his long career, including “I Walk the Line,” “Jackson,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” and the title track “Ring of Fire.” With smashing medleys and bounce in its guitar-driven energy, this show will have people stompin’ their feet, Bodolosky said. Critics have said that “Ring of Fire” is considered one of the best jukebox musicals ever.
Returning to the Pasquerilla stage on Dec. 11 for a delightful holiday show is “A Christmas Carol.”
“People have called and asked us to bring the Nebraska Theatre Caravan touring company back,” Bodolosky said. “It is one of the most beloved holiday traditions of all time, and we are pleased to have them back.”
Twenty-eight performers will bring Dickens’ fable of redemption to life with a full array of Christmas traditions woven into the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Local high school choirs will join the River City Brass Band for a holiday celebration on Dec. 15.
River City Brass Band: “Christmas Brasstacular” promises to be a memorable event.
On Jan. 26, a stage show in tribute of the pioneers of gypsy jazz will feature Hot Club of San Francisco.
The ensemble of accomplished musicians celebrates the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s pioneering Hot Club de France.
Hot Club of San Francisco borrows the instrumentation of violin, bass and guitars from the original Hot Club while breathing new life into the music with innovative arrangements of classic tunes and original compositions.
The group features lead guitarist Paul Mehling and the amazing violin of two-time Grammy Award winner Evan Price and a swinging rhythm section.
“An evening with the Hot Club of San Francisco offers a night of unforgettable music,” Bodolosky said.
In an example of how the shows in the arts center are a bargain, Bodolosky pointed to the Jan. 29 performance of “Sleeping Beauty” by the Nureyev Russian Ballet.
“If people went to New Jersey to see this show, tickets would cost them $71,” Bodolosky said. “In Johnstown, people can see the exact same production for half that price.”
The national touring company from Russia has performed “Swan Lake” and “Romeo and Juliet” for Pasquerilla patrons in past years.
The familiar tale of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” is a collaboration of dance, music and design that continues to influence ballet today.
“We benefit by getting the dancers to perform here in midweek as they travel between weekend appearances,” Bodolosky said.
Patrons will be introduced to the official Blues Brothers Revue on March 6.
The group re-creates the live concert experience, integrating the humor and songs from the original film and subsequent albums.
“This show is produced by Judy Belushi Pisano, John Belushi’s widow, and Dan Aykroyd.” Bodolosky said.
The revue pays homage to Chicago's rich history of blues, soul music and gospel in the true spirit of the original Blues Brothers.
VOX Audio will pay tribute to the human voice as five vocalist forego instruments except the human voice to create complex sounds.
“They formerly called themselvess Toxic Audio but still create sonic textures, rhythmic drumbeats, thumping bass lines and searing guitar-like solos in their performance of contemporary pop songs, timeless classics and jazz-scat,” Bodolosky said.
“They cover songs ranging from Justin Bieber to Stevie Wonder.”
River City Brass Band returns with “The Power of Energy” on March 22.
On April 6, The Cooke Booke: Music of Sam Cooke pays tribute to the man who invented soul.
Starring Darrian Ford, the show features Cooke’s greatest hits and some lesser known gems.
Considered by many to be the definitive soul singer, Sam Cooke blended sensuality and spirituality, sophistication and soul, movie-idol looks and gospel singer poise.
Songs like “Chain Gang,” “Cupid” and “A Change is Gonna Come” – recognized as one of the first civil rights protest songs – are among 19 numbers that comprise the musical revue.
“Darrian Ford is not impersonating but celebrating the music of Sam Cooke,” Bodolosky said.
There will be no political satire of Capitol Steps this season. Instead, Chicago City Limits will bring its legendary improvisational show to the arts center.
Founded in Chicago in 1977 by actors participating in the Second City workshops, the group relocated to New York in 1980 and began an off-Broadway run of more than 8,500 performances.
Chicago City Limits combines sketch comedy, musical theater and audience-inspired improvisations.
“Someone yells out a subject and the majority of the show is created on the spot,” Bodolosky said. “There is a lot of audience interaction.”
Rounding out the season is “Hair,” the Broadway musical, on May 10.
This Tony Award-winning Broadway musical celebrates youth and a poignant journey through a tumultuous 1960s America.
Tickets may be ordered by calling the box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at 269-7200 or visit www.upjarts.org.
Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Tom Lavis@TomLavistd.
All main-stage shows for the 2013-14 Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center season will begin at 7:30 p.m. except for River City Brass Band performances, which begin at 3 p.m.
Sept. 7: The New Christy Minstrels, folk music.
Oct. 12: “Rocky Mountain High,” John Denver tribute.
Nov. 14: “Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash tribute.
Dec. 11: “A Christmas Carol,” Broadway musical.
Dec. 15: River City Brass Band, “Christmas Brasstacular.”
Jan. 26: “Hot Club of San Francisco,” gypsy jazz music.
Jan. 29: “Sleeping Beauty,” Nureyev Russian Ballet, dance.
March 6: “The Official Blues Brothers Revue,” music and comedy.
March 21: VOX Audio, a cappella.
March 22: River City Brass Band, “The Power of Energy.”
April 6: “The Cooke Booke: Music of Sam Cooke.”
April 18: Chicago City Limits, comedy.
May 10: “Hair – The Broadway Musical.”